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A Breakthrough Year: Keeping Five Promises in 2014

Posted: December 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The month of January provides the opportunity to review, refocus and renew. At no other time during the course of the year does such a profound occasion exist.

As the first quarter unfolds, there is hope that great things will take place; that breakthrough relationships, products and possibilities will surface and come to fruition.

High hopes aside, if the leaders in the organization don’t, won’t or can’t change, the business results are not likely to change much either.

The biggest shame to befall any business leader is to begin a new year with the goal of having the year end in a better place; then at the end of the year, he or she faces the brutal facts that the business is in worse condition than when the year started.

To have a better 2014, I recommend that you make five promises before the end of the month that you will hold to until the end of the year.

First, stop selling vanilla ice cream.

Continuing to sell a “me too” commodity like everyone else does only leads to shrinking margins. Many companies get into the trap of selling only on price because they have not correctly positioned themselves in the market, but more importantly, they are trapped because there is no viable reason for a buyer to pay more.

A breakthrough organization is always on the hunt for a more compelling competitive advantage and for higher margins by developing products that are worthy of a higher price.

Second, retain the best, and engage or replace the rest.

Every business is based on the quality of the people in the organization. The challenge of the leader is to retain the very best managers and to engage as many employees as possible.

A superior management team is one that is capable of executing quickly, effectively and efficiently.

An engaged workforce of employees make the difference in providing client care over and above what is expected. People who don’t want to be engaged can find work elsewhere.

Third, don’t hesitate to pay for performance.

Good people are an investment in the future of a company. Give people the opportunity to earn a return on what they deliver.

The issue with many pay-for-performance programs is that they do not extend deep enough into the organization, thereby creating chasms between departments. This creates anger, frustration and lack of teamwork and alignment.

When the team wins, the entire team should be rewarded.

Fourth, lead from the front and stay there.

One thing that makes Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, stand out as a leader is his overwhelming display of enthusiasm and energy. He is focused on winning and it shows; he leads from the front.

Not everyone can be Pete Carroll. Not everyone needs to be Pete Carroll. But every leader needs to be visible, focused and transferring enthusiasm to the team they lead in order to win.

Last, get and keep everyone aligned.

The responsibility of every leader is to define what winning is for the company and each team and individual in it. Provide the tools and atmosphere to win; keep the team focused and moving toward the goal of winning.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together to learn, share, act, grow and succeed. Contact him at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the SCVBJ.


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